There are too many reports of workplace harassment and bullying to list. It seems that at least 30 percent of managers and employees are bullied and harassed. Many critics and experts focus only on bullying bosses, but I’ve seen just as many employees and coworkers use these bullying methods as I have managers and supervisors. Gangs of managers and staff also harass and bully each other.
How can you recognize the most common methods used for bullying and harassment? The top 7 techniques I’ve seen are:
- Yelling and physical threats (overt or subtle).
- Personal attacks, verbal abuse, emotional intimidation, insults, put-downs and humiliating, demeaning, rude, cruel, insulting, mocking and embarrassing comments. False accusations (especially outrageous) and character assassination. Demeaning behavior at meetings – interrupting, ignoring, laughing, non-verbal comments behind your back (rude noises, body language, facial gestures, answering phones, working on computers).
- Harassment based on race, religion, gender and physical attributes. Sexual contact, lewd suggestions, name-calling, teasing and personal jokes (sometimes overtly nasty, or threatening or sometimes followed by laughter as in, “I was just kidding” in order to make it hard for you to fight back).
- Backstabbing, spreading rumors and gossip, manipulating, lying, distorting, hypocrisy and exposing your problems and mistakes. Anonymous attacks and cyber bullying – flaming e-mails and porn. Invading your personal space and privacy – rummaging through your desk, listening to phone calls, asking extremely personal questions, eating your food.
- Taking the credit; spreading the blame. Withholding information and then cutting you down for not knowing or for failing. Turf wars about budgets, hiring, copiers and coffee machines.
- Hypersensitive, over-reactions, throwing tantrums (drama queens, sensitive princes) – so you walk on egg shells, back off in order to avoid a scene, or beg forgiveness as if you really did something wrong.
- Dishonest evaluations – praising and promoting favorites, giving slackers good evaluations and destroying the careers of people bullies don’t like.
Most bullies use combinations of these methods.
Bullying at work creates a hostile and unproductive culture.
- There’s increased hostility, tension, selfishness, sick leave, stress-related disabilities, turn over and legal actions.
- People become isolated, do busy work with no important results and waste huge chunks of time talking about the latest episodes.
- Effort is diffused instead of aligned. Teamwork, productivity, responsibility, efficiency, creativity and taking reasonable risks decrease.
- Promotions are based on sucking up to the most difficult and nasty people, not on merit. The best people leave as soon as they can.